Westport Country Playhouse, Westport: When the lights come up on Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot at the Westport Country Playhouse, a young boy is playing with his tin toy knights on horses. The scene introduces the musical as a fairytale and even though there are strange commedia dell’arte masks and costumes, the magic of that most “congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering” is lost.
Mark Lamos, who directs this David Lee adaptation, presents a scaled down “Camelot.” Some of the major characters have been deleted from this much more manageable but less memorable production. For instance, Merlin, the magician and King Aruthur’s mentor has been reduced to a mere reference. Merlin owns much of the magic. King Arthur’s love for his queen Guenevere is also supposed to be rather magical, but less so in this Westport production. Granted when we first meet Robert Sean Leonard as the King he has the stance and build of a leader, but doesn’t keep that image throughout. There’s just something rather lackluster and less than royal about this king. His strong vocals nearly belie his characterization. The problem is that we come to accept that he really didn’t want to be king, something he says repeatedly. And so we don’t see him as regal. He’s also overly sympathetic about his wife’s love for his best knight.
Guenevere, on the other hand, as played by Britney Coleman is quite enchanting. Her voice is a lyrical serenade and she is quite lovely. Actually, she’s more like a princess than a queen. As for her knight in shining armor, Lancelot, as played by Stephen Mark Lukas, he is definitely stiff. While he’s supposed to be staunchly righteous, he doesn’t melt quick enough to fall in love with the queen. Even though they come together pretty quickly, the magic of their love doesn’t catch up. Lancelot just doesn’t look like he’s really in love with Guenevere.
The scenery is also lackluster with a black sillouette of a tree in the opening and a gray looking castle in the background. The floral frames that revelers flaunt do not make up for the blah set.
I know that I was spoiled by attending the New York production that featured Richard Burton as king, but I really looked forward to visiting “Camelot” again. I was disappointed because instead of the magical “Camelot” I only saw its shadow.
(It is interesting to note that Sana Sarr, the young boy who opened the show, hails from Bridgeport. He attends Black Rock School and is already an Equity actor. Kudos to this talented young man.) The production has been extended to Nov. 5.
Janne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]